The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), along with three other regulatory agencies, has sent out a firm warning to the country’s licensed online gambling operators, telling them that they must immediately stop advertising to children, regardless of whether or not the ads have been intentional.
The topic of advertising to minors has been a hot one lately in the UK, primarily because of an investigation by the Sunday Times that asserts that online gambling firms have been marketing games that appeal to children using juvenile cartoon graphics and popular children’ characters to allegedly draw the attention of youths. Examples of certain slots games are Peter Pan, Moon Princess, Jack and the Beanstalk, Piggy Payout, and Fluffy Favourites.”
These games can frequently be found in real money and play money varieties and don’t always need age verification to play.
The UKGC, along with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and the Remote Gambling Association (AGA), has sent a letter to the nearly 500 online gambling operators, putting its foot down and saying that such advertising must stop.
The letter lays out the relevant portion of the CAP Code:
16.1 Marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.
16.3 Marketing communications must not:
16.3.12 be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.
17.13 Marketing communications for lotteries must not be likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.
Whether or not an ad is “likely to be of particular appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture” is fairly subjective, but the UKGC explains that, generally speaking, this would entail, “The use of particular colours, cartoon and comic book images, animals, child- and youth-orientated references….”
Operators are ordered to immediately remove all ads for such games from their sites and from third party media vehicles. Those who do not are at risk of being hit with sanctions.
The UKGC and other organizations understand that there could be some cases where an operator isn’t sure whether or not a game and related ad targets people under 18-years old. In that case, CAP advises that the operator pull or edit the ad AND THEN contact the CAP Copy Advice Team to discuss whether or not the marketing is a violation of regulations.